Holiday Shopping? Here’s Why Some Stores May Let You Keep Your Returns

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, you're likely to find more stores shunning returns in favor of a 'keep-it' policy, study finds.

Dissatisfied woman holds up a shirt she has taken out of a box.
(Image credit: fizkes, Getty Images)

It’s not just a matter of luck — more and more retailers are implementing “keep-it” policies on returns when the cost of the return outweighs its price, according to a new report from returns management platform goTRG

Just in time for the busy holiday shopping season, the survey, which polled 500 U.S. retailers, found that 59% offer keep-it policies when the item is not “economical to ship back.” Reasons include the item being low-cost, or the mere fact of inventory surplus — 68% of retailers said their inventory levels are much higher than they were a year ago.

For certain items, like bathing suits or underwear, where hygiene comes into the equation, this policy from retailers is nothing new. At Amazon, for example, there are at least 15 things you can't return, as Kiplinger previously reported.

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But retailers are using other, less appealing tactics to reduce profit losses, too. According to the survey, many have taken to shortening their return windows. This change might be deemed especially tricky for those who got their shopping done early, inspired by Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and even summer promotions like Prime Day.

Another tactic to look out for, according to the survey, is the push toward “BORIS” — or, buy online return in store. More and more retailers are turning to this strategy in part to drive traffic to the store, where it might be more likely that someone will make another purchase in tandem with their return. 

Running the risk of fraud

Retailers who have returnless policies run the risk of fraud — consumers figuring out what and how they are enforcing the rule and then using it as a way to get items for free, according to media reports. 

The spotlight on the cost of returning items follows a surge in online shopping, along with returns, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. A May 23 Wall Street Journal report found that retailers are also attempting to alleviate costs by offering discounts to people who do not return their items or even charging people to make returns online. 

Even Amazon, according to the WSJ report, has attempted to reverse course to save money by showing customers which products have higher return rates than others. “By showing the return rates the company hopes to help customers make more informed purchase decisions,” according to the report. 

As the holiday season gets into full swing it’s worth keeping holiday returns guidelines in mind as you shop at some of your favorite retailers. Companies such as Costco and Target, among others, are all still offering discounts post-Black Friday and Cyber Monday.


Jamie Feldman

Jamie Feldman is a journalist, essayist and content creator. After building a byline as a lifestyle editor for HuffPost, her articles and editorials have since appeared in Cosmopolitan, Betches, Nylon, Bustle, Parade, and Well+Good. Her journey out of credit card debt, which she chronicles on TikTok, has amassed a loyal social media following. Her story has been featured in Fortune, Business Insider and on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, and NPR. She is currently producing a podcast on the same topic and living in Brooklyn, New York.